The return of the NHL is quickly approaching. It was announced that the NHL would be coming back with a 56-game schedule starting on January 13th. There hasn’t been hockey in over three months, with seven teams having not played since March.
For this season, though, the NHL has decided to make one major decision. While the divisions will be split up into four NHL divisions like normal during the 2020-21 season, the divisions were rearranged. The divisions will feature teams that you would not see in the regular divisions. Let’s take a look at the NHL Division Rankings ranked from least difficult to most difficult.
Least Difficult: Central Division
This division being ranked the least difficult might seem a bit confusing. It features the 2020 Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning and the runners up in the Dallas Stars. That may be scary enough, but there is one more thing. Take away both the Lightning and Stars from this division and there is barely anyone good. While the Carolina Hurricanes are alright, they are nowhere near as good as Tampa is.
Despite the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets being in the round-robin, they didn’t have a great offseason to help make them a contender in this division. The Nashville Predators also has similar issues as they haven’t suppressed themselves as a contender.
Having the Florida Panthers and Detroit Red Wings in the same division also makes this division weaker despite their offseason moves. This is likely Tampa Bay’s or Dallas’s division because there is not much competition.
Third Least Difficult: North Division
It may be called the North Division, but let’s face it; it’s all the Canadian teams in one division. What makes this division more challenging is there are a lot more contenders here. Ottawa Senators improved themselves during the offseason, acquiring Matt Murray as well as Tim Stutzle and Jake Sanderson in the 2020 NHL Draft. While moves like Braden Holtby to the Vancouver Canucks, Jake Allen to the Montreal Canadiens, and Paul Stastny to the Winnipeg Jets have happened, there hasn’t been a significant change for any of these teams.
However, teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, and Edmonton Oilers have more talent in their roster that adding major additions doesn’t seem necessary. The best team in the North Division talent-wise is the Maple Leafs. Even if they traded away Andreas Johnsson, they still have Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and Mitch Marner, which is more than enough to get them the division.
Second Least Difficult: West Division
How scary will this NHL division be? Well, how about playing against three teams who have made the Western Conference Finals in the past three years. One particular team that makes the division challenging is the Vegas Golden Knights. During the offseason, the Golden Knights secured the top FA in Alex Pietrangelo from the St. Louis Blues. What’s even crazier is that the Blues are in the same division this year as the Golden Knights.
Even with Pietrangelo gone, the Blues are still an excellent team in this division. But the team to look out for to win the division is the Colorado Avalanche. Despite losing in the Western Conference Finals to the Stars, the Avalanche still have a potent team consisting of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog. While the Minnesota Wild and Anaheim Ducks had their special moments in the offseason in the 2020 NHL Draft, they still won’t compete in this NHL division.
Most Difficult NHL Division: East Division
Sincerest apologies to the Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils. The Devils and the Sabres won’t be able to survive what is easily the scariest division this year. There are so many good teams, and it’s hard to say who will win this division. When you add the Boston Bruins to a division filled with many powerhouse NHL franchises that seem to get better every offseason, that shows exactly how difficult this division is. Speaking of improving, the New York Rangers were perhaps the biggest winners of the offseason when they acquired Alexis Lafreniere with the first overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.
Adding a player with 112 points last season in the QMJHL to a roster with Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad, the Rangers will become an elite NHL team in the next few years. If the Rangers weren’t tough enough, everyone will still have to deal with Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals as well as Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
To finish off this division of horrors, the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Islanders, who made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last year, are still really impressive. Nobody wants to play in this division. No matter who adjusts their roster, this division is the toughest in the NHL this season.
Follow me on Twitter at @SonicHockeyFan for more of my content!
Come join the discussion made by the fans at the Overtime Heroics forums! A place for all sports.Embed from Getty Images